"Form a Government of National Unity"

The leader of the Francophone socialist party Elio Di Rupo seized the opportunity afforded by his party's New Year's reception to call for the new Federal Government to be a Government of 'National Unity'.

The Francophone socialist leader explained that the 'National Unity' Government should be formed quickly and could include all 'democratic parties', which means that only the far right is excluded.

Mr Di Rupo referred to the Flemish and Francophone Christian democrats, socialists, liberals and Greens as well as the Flemish nationalists by name.

If such an administration is not possible, the Francophone socialist leader suggested opening up the present caretaker government to all parties that wish to join. Prime Minister Leterme's administration consists of the Flemish and Francophone liberals and Christian democrats plus the Francophone socialists.

By expanding the existing government it could again command the majority that it lost on 13 June and regain full powers.

Mr Di Rupo believes that a new government is urgently needed to deal with the country's social economic problems including drafting this year's budget, boosting employment and economic recovery and safeguarding pensions.

He proposed that the new government would also take a first step towards fresh state reforms and spoke of a settlement for the contentious issue of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency as well as funding for the Brussels Region.

Mr Di Rupo spoke of his disappointment that after months of negotiations some parties were not prepared to go along with a negotiated settlement. He spoke of two parties (the Flemish Christian democrats and Nationalists) who had rejected the state reform proposals tabled by Royal Mediator Johan Vande Lanotte (Flemish socialist) and added that no language community can impose its will on another.

He also rejected any idea of fresh elections saying that the electorate had made its choice on 13 June and that elections would not solve anything.